Just breathe. Well-meaning folks would tell me that, and I would want to choke them. What do you mean, breathe? What do you think I’m doing, flapping my gills? Of course I’m breathing, you twit! How is that going to help me calm down/finish this presentation/get through the next five minutes? It turns out they were being very helpful, and I was/am the twit. Most days, without thought, my breathing is so constricted and uncommitted that the air I take in could barely keep a bird alive, even a tiny bird, like a robin. An adult at rest can take 12-20 breaths per minute. Those breaths need to fill the lungs with air. That air contains the oxygen our body needs for its own internal combustion. We can go days without water and weeks without food, but only a few minutes without oxygen. yet when we’re stressed or preoccupied, our muscles constrict and our breathing gets shallow, reducing our flow of oygen when we need it the most. But that’s what burnout feels like, at least to me: body, mind and spirit all arguing and pushing each other around like drunken siblings at a family reunion, desperate to connect but too damaged and immature to figure out how.
So now, on Day Five, I am trying hydration through extra water, nutrition with my extra serving of vegetables, a wee bit of exercise to build muscle and vent negative energy, 15 minutes of mindful quiet (or in simpler terms, a nap), and now, breathing. Real breathing. A slow, deep breath in, held for a second or two, then released slowly, a controlled trickle taking with it a painful memory, a chunk of undigested bitterness, a shard of stress. Then repeat. Again. Ten in a row of these slow, deep, deliberate breaths. I did them this morning when I woke up, that familiar knot already settled firmly in my gut. Now, I’m at my desk, about to finish my first task of the day, enjoying the sunshine, looking forward to breakfast (and my extra glass of water).
Thanks for being here. See you tomorrow.